Mark’s Gospel, being the shortest account of the synoptic gospels, gives the hearer a sense of urgency in the ministry of the Messiah. Above all, it poses the question, “Who is Jesus?”
Regardless of being physically blind, Bartimaeus identifies the Nazarene who is hasting to Jerusalem. He is the Son of David and this is a reference to the ninth chapter of Isaiah in which from this line of David, Israel, from the north and the south, from all tribes, will be united under one kingship. Bartimaeus, who represents the Gentiles, the forsaken and the forgotten in society, makes this connection. He may be physically blind, but amidst his blindness, he sees that the Christ has come from the line of David; therefore, he is more in the know than the other characters in the Gospel. His profession brought about the immediate healing of his physical blindness!
This healing reaches its peak when our Lord commanded Bartimaeus to follow him on the Way, the Way to Jerusalem and the Way to Christian discipleship. Is this healing of Bartimeaus simply a list of random events in the ministry of our Lord?
Let’s rewind. Two chapters prior, our Lord heals the blind man of Bethsaida and everything leading up to Bartimaeus is about our Lord’s passion and discipleship. There is a sandwich of the healing of two blind men and in the middle we hear the terms of what it means to be a disciple: we must take up our cross (Mk 8.34-38), the necessity of being a servant (Mk 9.35), and the full condition the cross in which the first will be last and the greatest among us will be the least (Mk 10.43-44). The author of Mark is pointing out the blindness that often comes with following Jesus. We may suggest that Bartimaeus is named because he is in the know of what it means to follow Jesus. As a matter of fact, Bartimaeus “threw aside his cloak,” his only source of warmth, protection, and bedding for each night, and clings to Jesus, knowing that our Lord will provide everything the blind man needs. How do we know Jesus?
I have found that many times we have come to claim a distorted image of Jesus Christ. Some people find him to be a Millionaire Jesus who wants to make you rich and give you fame, money, and status to prove that you are blessed. Some people have distorted the image of our Lord as a banner to advance a personal agenda. There are times when we subscribe to an S.A.T. Jesus who is only called upon to pass our tests and quizzes and admittance into the finest schools. And there are times, when Jesus is simply portrayed as the convenient friend. These are the striking headliners in which many people believe their savior to be. Who is the real Jesus?
In my own journey of faith, I have encountered Jesus, the great high priest who desires nothing more than to open our eyes that we may see his mission in which we care for the poor, the marginalized, and the forgotten. In doing so, we follow on the Way. Jesus does not heal us today from our blindness in order that we can do what we want, as we want, and the way we want, healing for the sake of convenience.
He heals our blindness to follow him in imitation of the cross – to love as he loves, the way he loved. It is a love that forces us out of ourselves, to live life in joy-filled service to our neighbor.
Furthermore, Jesus restores our sight in order that we might be one. Just as he came to establish Israel under one kingship, he heals us today, so that his Lordship trumps the illusion walls that tell us we are bound by cultural language and personal views. He heals us today in order that we recognize that our citizenship is bound by a covenant won and purchased by Him.
No matter what we face right in front of us: financial difficulty, family misfortunes, or peer pressure God has the capacity to touch us as high priest, to restore us, to be with us in the middle of it all, and invite us on the way of lasting joy.
True discipleship is when we recognize who our Lord really is: the Son of David, the great high priest and the one king who unites us as Church to serve each other.
This Year of Faith, which we have begun, is a re-discovery of, a re-introduction to, and a re-encountering with the central protagonist of the Christian Faith, that is, with Jesus Christ, who draws us now to this sacrificial altar and this table of abundant food. Here, our physical eyes not only see bread and wine, but the eyes of faith behold the Risen One in whom we are about to become, in whom we are transformed, in whom eyes of faith confess, “It is the Lord.”
A scene from Jesus of Nazareth, worth meditating on this last Sunday in October.